Federal corruption watchdog has authority to hold public hearings, says Australian PM


Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced the National Anti-Corruption Commission (ACCC) amid warnings from opponents that sweeping power could lead to a “show trial”.

The Labor government, which passed the bill at Tuesday’s caucuses, will commit $262 million (US$170 million) over four years to set up and operate the commission. Investigation “serious or systemic” corruption throughout the federal public sector;

Allegations of corruption by ministers, members of parliament and their staff, statutory officer owners, employees of all government agencies, and government contractors will be placed under the microscope over time without limit.

The controversial anti-corruption watchdog has the power to hold public hearings “in exceptional circumstances and in the public interest,” the prime minister said Tuesday.

We can also investigate corrupt practices by third parties that are deemed to have adversely affected the integrity or impartiality of the conduct of public officials.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfuss said Tuesday, “People should be afraid if they engage in corrupt practices.

“However, the question of how the committee decides which issues to investigate and how to invest its resources is a matter for the committee to decide.”

Concerns that public hearings could jeopardize people’s reputations

Dreyfus told Congress on Monday that the hearings “raise questions about reputational damage that you don’t face in closed-door hearings, which is why most of these commissions’ work is done behind closed doors.” ‘ said.

This is a departure from the Labor Corruption Commission model and the liberal model of 2021, which does not host public hearings, survey information from the public, or publish public findings. increase.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton was cautious about the hearings potentially turning into a “show trial” or a “protracted investigation”.

“I don’t want people’s lives destroyed,” he told ABC’s Four Corners program on Sept. 23.

“I don’t like the fact that some of these investigations have been going on for years and people haven’t been cleared. In that situation, it’s a denial of justice.”

But the left-wing Green Party called for lowering the bar for hearings, with a Greens Justice spokesperson arguing that “sunlight is a great disinfectant.”

The NACC is overseen by a statutory joint parliamentary committee, and only the committee’s leaders can decide whether the conduct is deemed “serious or systemic” enough for an investigation.

It operates independently of the government and has significant discretion to initiate investigations on its own initiative or in response to inquiries from whistleblowers or the public.

The bill is expected to be passed by the end of this year.

Nina Nguyen

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Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Please contact her at [email protected]